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Airbus flies IBM

Airbus selects IBM and OATSystems for the world’s largest RFID-enabled manufacturing initiative.

Airbus, the pan-European aircraft builder, is implementing a
multimillion-dollar, multi-year RFID project that will help streamline its
supply chain and manufacturing operations, including those at subcontractors in
SA, such as Denel Saab Aerostructures and BEE aviation company Aerosud.

The
Toulouse, France-based airliner maker also expects the project awarded to IBM
and OATSystems to significantly reduce its aircraft production and maintenance
costs by eliminating errors and automating processes.

Airbus
will also roll out the system to customers, which in Africa number 19 airlines
flying 101 aircraft, including SAA, Air Mauritius and Air Namibia. In addition,
a number of global carriers flying to SA also rely on SAA Technical and
Airbus’s in-country customer support office for assistance and stand to gain
from the implementation.

Airbus
head of value chain visibility and RFID Carlo Nizam told Computerworld the deal
would save the company “millions of euros per year”.

A
big RFID deal

The
vendors say the project represents the manufacturing industry’s single largest
RFID software transaction to date, but did not disclose figures to back the
claim. IBM and OATSystems say the deal follows a pilot project run over the
past year.

Airbus
and Boeing dominate the airline market with each holding about half of the
global market. Airbus has 16 manufacturing plants in Europe and a worldwide
supplier, as well as customer chain.

“Airbus’s
decision to use RFID across its operations sends a clear signal to
manufacturers – that RFID isn’t a technology for ‘someday,’ it can bring
manufacturers a competitive edge right now,” says IBM RFID solutions
vice-president Martin Wildberger. “By giving Airbus greater visibility
into its business processes, RFID can help serve as an engine for business
transformation inside Airbus and across its partner network.”

OATSystems
CEO Michael George says the deal will demonstrate how an industry giant can put
RFID to work throughout its operations to gain substantial efficiencies and
competitive advantages. “This is yet another example of how RFID’s core
value is its ability to transform and improve business processes dramatically,”
he says.

Details
and devils

The
chosen solution runs on IBM’s RFID infrastructure, which is powered by
service-oriented architecture technology that includes the WebSphere Premises
Server and the IBM Business Process Management portfolio, including WebSphere
Process Server and WebSphere Business Monitor.

The
IBM Tivoli Monitoring and IBM Tivoli Composite Application software products
will be used for infrastructure monitoring.

OATSystems
will contribute business applications including the OAT Foundation Suite, Asset
Tracking and Work-in-Process solutions.

The
vendors say Airbus will easily and quickly be able to integrate RFID into
existing applications and, thereby, transform and streamline current business
processes while gaining real-time visibility into daily operations. “Using this
solution, Airbus will be able to deploy applications centrally at its
distributed facilities or even at remote third-party sites to address specific
business scenarios,” the companies say.

Nizam
notes that RFID tags are not being used for supplier-provided parts yet. At the
moment, Airbus is tagging only shipping containers, paperwork orders, shipping
labels and production tooling.

Airbus
SA spokesman Linden Birns adds that the implementation follows Airbus’s
introduction of a new online spare parts purchasing and tracking system for
customers, called the Virtual Warehouse.

This
allows Airbus customers – such as SAA – “24/7 real time access to worldwide
spares location information, to Airbus spares stock and to inventory held both
by customers who opt to participate and a wide selection of major suppliers.”

Birns
adds that Virtual Warehouse also provides valuable support, at no additional
cost, to customers needing to quickly locate stock at the closest location for
a maintenance intervention.

The
system, which also relies on RFID technology, works with Airbus’s real-time
health monitoring and trouble-shooting tool, Airman, which proactively detects
a requirement for a spare part during a flight.

“Operators
can access the Virtual Warehouse using any Web browser. It is easy to use and
requires no training,” Birns says. Virtual Warehouse is already available to
all Airbus aircraft operators.

Related
stories:
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Fuel cells fly
CSIR bags R1.5m Airbus contract
ICT, aeronautics divide blurring
Cellphones fly on Airbus

This story was first published on ITWeb at http://www.itweb.co.za/sections/business/2008/0804111044.asp

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